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Governor, Fish and Game commissioner meet with community

Hot topic in Kenai: Salmon

Posted: November 27, 2012 - 8:24pm  |  Updated: November 28, 2012 - 9:23am
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Photo by M. Scott Moon Gov. Sean Parnell, center, responds to a comment while talking with commercial fishermen Chris Garcia, left, and John McCombs, right, during a community reception to discuss fishery issues Tuesday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon Gov. Sean Parnell, center, responds to a comment while talking with commercial fishermen Chris Garcia, left, and John McCombs, right, during a community reception to discuss fishery issues Tuesday at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Gov. Sean Parnell said his fiscal year 2014 budget would include $10 million as a “down payment” on a $30 million, five-year comprehensive Chinook Salmon Research Initiative during a Tuesday community meet and greet in Kenai.

Parnell, along with Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell spent more than an hour at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center answering a range of questions about the 2012 fishing season, changes in fisheries management and addressing user group frustration about how fish have been allocated.

“I take very seriously your business, your livelihood and how you ­— as a people — are impacted by a diminishing resource like our chinook salmon,” Parnell said before he asked for questions from a crowd of about 70 people.

The first question was from a man who said he wanted to know where the governor stood in relation to the fishery and why politics seemed to play such a huge role in managing Cook Inlet fish.

Parnell said last season tested his resolve.

“It was very hard for me to stand by while the fisheries — while what happened to the fisheries — happened this year because I made a pledge to all of you as your governor that I would not make political calls on the fishery and that’s one of the toughest things to stand by in that kind of setting when your families are suffering from lost fish,” he said.

His responsibility, Parnell said, was to make sure Fish and Game was “responsible and responsive” to the public and acting within the law.

“We can always improve,” he said.

The next question was if Parnell would intervene if user groups were kept out of the water during the next king salmon fishing season.

“I will work to make sure that the system works better to bring back those fish and bring back more of them,” he said. “If you’re asking if I will intervene politically to favor one group over another, I will not, but I will work to sustain your livelihoods by sustaining that run of fish.”

Doug Blossom, a setnetter, told Parnell he hoped some of the money being requested would go toward fishery rehabilitation rather than more research about the salmon life cycle.

“Studying won’t do any good,” Blossom said. “Before you get through studying they’ll all be dead and gone; if you rehab it I’ll be able to watch my grandkids catch fish.”

During a meeting with the Clarion after the afternoon reception, Parnell and Campbell said the money would be allocated according to an analysis Fish and Game conducted earlier this year that identified gaps in the department’s knowledge about the salmon life cycle.

That gap analysis is set to be released in mid-December and Campbell said it would be a blueprint for how the $30 million would be spent over the next five years.

The Kenai River is one of 12 king salmon-bearing rivers across the state Fish and Game plans to research and use as “indicator stocks” according to the gap analysis. Projects such as the sonar site relocation on the Kenai River were included in the gap analysis and would receive further funding through the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative.

Paul Shadura, setnetter and a director of the Kenai Peninsula Fisherman’s Association, told Parnell that the $10 million funding request was a “strong start” but encouraged the governor to pursue a comanagement system in the Cook Inlet which would allow users to have more of a say in decisions made by Fish and Game.

“I think a lot of the situations could maybe be minimalized ... if we had that degree of response with the department in-season,” Shadura said.

Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, said he hoped the managers would consider outsourcing some of its research.

Department researchers sometimes have a “learning curve” with new technology that takes years to overcome, he said.

“I would encourage other departments — when there are opportunities to outsource to people who are very knowledgeable in this technology — that that’s considered,” Gease said.

Mark Ducker, a commercial fisherman, became visibly agitated as he spoke to Parnell about what he said was a lack of timely information coming out of the sport fishery.

“It’s pretty ridiculous, we’re spending all this money and the best data we’ve got is six years old,” Ducker said.

He said he had been requesting data on creel surveys and sport catch on Kenai River king salmon since August and had been rebuffed by Fish and Game.

“They basically told me it’d cost me $2,500 to get this information,” Ducker said. “Why do I need to pay for information that should be available to the public? Why is the Cook Inlet so damn difficult?”

Not everyone who spoke had negative things to say about fisheries management or suggestions about how things could be better managed. Gary Fandrei, executive director of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, told the crowd he appreciated the governor’s efforts to fund fisheries by helping to rebuild hatcheries across the state.

“I don’t think everybody recognizes that, so I was hoping to at least make a point that he’s not new to the game, he’s been around for a little while and he’s aware of what’s going on,” Fandrei said after the meeting.

Parnell closed the question and answer session after Fandrei spoke by saying that he appreciated people coming out in the middle of the day to share their concerns.

“You do have an administration that cares deeply about what happens to you and will work deeply to see (fishermen) through,” Parnell said.


Rashah McChesney can be reached at

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5akman 11/28/12 - 04:56 pm
Daily fish counts

How come, as a commercial fisherman, I have to turn in data every day to F& G regarding my catch (or the processor does) and the sporties/guides do not? How come I have to report ANY sized king as a "king" where sporties/guides do not? Does anyone here see some hypocrisy in this double standard and a HUGE delay in accurate data/counts?

pengy 11/29/12 - 07:11 am
You are wrong. Sport fishing

You are wrong. Sport fishing guides are required to turn in log books on a weekly basis of their guided catch. Like the commercial fisherman, they have to report any size king as a "king".

Now for joe 6 pack sport fisherman, their fish numbers are not accounted for. F&G estimates their catch.

5akman 11/29/12 - 09:04 am

....but yet we don't get the guides/sporties "data" until when? Comm fish data is available within two days if I remember correctly. Its also my understanding that kings under a certain length don't have to be noted as a "king" by the guides/sporties.The above article states that the info was requested and then refused to be given by F&G, what gives? I can look online during the season and see what the comm fish count is day by day. Once again, a huge double standard.

Alaskaborn 11/29/12 - 10:00 am
Data reported

On the Kenai, there is a creel survey that provides real time sport harvest information for both guided and unguided fishing. Just go to F&G web site on their fish count web page and you will see estimated harvest numbers for Kenai kings.
All kings have to be recorded on guide log books at the completion of every trip, before they either offload fish or clients if no fish were retained, or leaving the launch site.
Sport fishermen must record on their license any fish that has an annual limit. Only king salmon greater than 20" has an annual limit. That doesn't mean that harvest of king salmon less than 20" isn't estimated. Sport harvest is estimated using the Statewide Harvest Survey ( They use a survey because over 400,000 licenses are sold each year. It isn't cost effective or necessary to obtain the daily harvest from every sport angler that obtains a license. Compare that to less than 1,000 commerical permits for Cook Inlet. It isn't a double standard, it is just different programs to deal with very different fisheries.

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 11/29/12 - 11:48 am
No matter

Who ever is helping the Kenai River Kings, Salmon as a whole has done a bad job of it and we are watching the death of our river due to who knows what.
Is it poor management by Govt., over fishing by commercial or sport or guided clients, or possibly an act of God? Who knows for sure? All i know is that we are in trouble economically and also food source related to this issue and it will affect all of us FULL TIME RESIDENTS OF THE KENAI.
I would add that i think it's a little of each with God in total control of it all and the reduction in the food sources world wide both from land & sea are promised Signs of the End of the Age we are now in and it's gonna get worse for ALL of us to survive and provide for self & family.

Seafarer 12/01/12 - 01:55 pm

I don't think I've seen so many brown-nosers at one meeting in my life. All planned and predictable; how can we expect any more of our BoyGov, Capn. Zero.

Of course, Gease was first in line...KRSA has no shame and think they are entitled and qualified for some of the SCIENCE to be outsourced. Of course! He's a biologist. And not a very good one. You can't even walk out your door in Cordova without running into a Black Bear.

To outsource anything to KRSA gives them more power than they already have for decisions on the Kenai. These pompous, self-styled "professional fishermen" think they are Lords of The River. Public fishing even closes down one day a year just for them. This is against our constitution, but what does money know about constitutions?

Frandrei. He has a legit brown-nose. He's all about enhancement and his job. He should be given some moolah. He can bring more fish for every user group. But, does he need to be so shameless about it?

Mark Drucker has every reason to get bent outta shape. F&G is famous for its OLD DATA! Give `em some secretaries, for gawds sake.

And Capn. Zero lied all the way home.

Roger104 12/02/12 - 03:05 pm
Log Books

Gillnet harvest data is reported by processors or catcher-sellers (yes, if gillnetters keep fish for themselves or sell it directly it MUST be reported) within 12 hours. This data is available to the public immediately afterwards, and (every year but last) is used to make management decisions as it is the most accurate, historic, and cost-effective indicator of run strength that we have.

The problem isn't that the commercial industry in the river doesn't report their catches, it's that the ADFG Sport Fish division is asleep at the wheel. They only require log books to be turned in weekly, and they do not compile this data until post-season. Much like total harvest from the sport and PU fishery, we have no idea what those numbers are until well into winter. Everyone knows that the creel survey is woefully inadequate, and king creel survey raw data is not publicly available past 2009.

How hard would it be to have an online reporting or call-in system for the guides similar to the E-landing system that commercial saltwater industries use? Daily indices of inriver abundance would be accurate and consistant coming from the commercial inriver industry. It seems money well spent when compared to the millions spent on the new king sonar that no one knows how to use.

Unfortunately, ADFG Sport Fish is funded primarily by license sales. This does not lend itself well to proper management. They, and the KRSA crew that controls them, have no interest in really knowing how many fish are in the river, as long as they have them all to themselves.

5akman 12/03/12 - 12:41 pm
You hit the nail on the head

Roger104, well said

Alaskaborn 12/04/12 - 05:04 pm

And how many years did it take the commercial industry to develop E-landing? It wouldn't surprise me if they went that route as well before long. Either way, basing management soely on catch/harvest rate information is a fools game. Relying on a tool that requires mortality of the fish while trying to determine if there are enough available to harvest quite often causes escapement goals to be missed. There are many factors besides fish abundance that can affect CPUE.

If everyone knows that the creel survey is woefully inadequate, then they are ignorant of the program and how it works. My quess is that many people know otherwise. Also, I provided the link which shows the 2012 inseason creel survey data. So I guess it really is publicly available.

Saying KRSA controls F&G again just shows ignorance of the F&G and the biologist who work hard every day for the resource. Do you really think if either division was controlled by a group (KRSA, UCIDA, KPFA, etc) that fishing would have closed at all?

A new king sonar that no one knows how to use? Sport Fish funding source not lending itself to proper management? Where do you come up with this stuff? Forget I asked, I think I know...........

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